|© 1998 Bernard SUZANNE||Last updated July 1st, 1999|
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Chronological History of Greece in the Vth and IVth centuries BC
These pages provide background historical information on Greece in the fifth and
fourth centuries B. C., the time and place Socrates and Plato lived in. Aside from political
history (in black),
information about the great figures of literature
and thought are provided in green.
Informations about the life of Plato and comments
on the relationship between historical events and his dialogues are
provided in bright red, and the period of his life is marked by a pale rose vertical line
between the datation scale and the text,
while those relating to the life of Socrates are
in darker red, and the period of his life is marked by a red vertical line
between the datation scale and the text
With regard to all these data, the reader must be aware of the fact that they don't have the accuracy that we expect from historical data on more recent events. Dates are often tentative, especially when it comes to the date of birth of people, and even as regards the date of death of many of them. It was common at the time to refer to Olympiads to date such events as the date of birth of a famous person, and Olympiads lasted four years. Besides, the transposition of the Greek calendar into our calendar poses a problem, because the year didn't start at the same period of the year and months were lunar months, leading to leap months from time to time to readjust with the solar calendar. Hence the habit of giving some dates with two year numers (eg.: 389/8) when the exact period of the year for an event is not known (to make things simpler here, I always kept only the first year number in such cases).
In the case of writers and thinkers, our sources often give a date (in terms of Olympiads), not so much for the date of birth, but for what they call the acme (or floruit in Latin), the time when the writer flourished, that is, was supposed to be at the peak of his genius, which they assumed to be about forty. And some would artificially assume that the immediate disciple in what they saw as a "school of thought" had to be forty years younger than his master (eg.: Zeno with regard to Parmenides). It is from this date that both the date of birth and sometimes the date of death (when the age of death is provided) have to be "reconstructed", unless they can be corelated to political events whose date is otherwise better known.
The chronology covers about two centuries, in order to provide enough background. Socrates died in 399, the first year of the IVth century, at age seventy, which means he lived through about two third of the Vth century, and Plato live his adult life during the first half of the IVth century (he was about thirty at Socrates' death and died at about eighty). Their combined lives covers roughly the period that goes from the birth of the Athenian Empire after the Persian Wars to that of the Macedonian empire of Philip and his son Alexander the Great, that is, the period of Athens greatest glory. To provide a little more context, the chronology extends on both sides, especially as regards the intellectual life and the so-called "Presocratic" thinkers and poets, many of whom are quoted or mentioned in the dialogues.
Note :if you want to search for a specific date, you may click in the index below on the closest date above the one you are looking for.
|Vth century B. C.||499||489||479||469||459||449||439||429||419||409|
|IVth century B. C.||399||389||379||369||359||349||339||329|
|594||Solon, archon at Athens, draws a new constitution for the city|
|570||Approximate date of birth of Pythagoras in Samos|
|525||Date of birth of Æschylus, in Eleusis.|
|518||Approximate date of birth of Pindar, in the vicinity of Thebes, in Boeotia|
|515||Possible approximate date of birth of Parmenides at Elea, if one accepts Plato's statement at Parmenides, 127a-c about the respective ages of Parmenides and Socrates at the time of their supposed meeting in Athens|
|508||Reforms of Cleisthenes in Athens, instituting a new system of tribes and demes within Attica and instituting the Council of the Five-Hundred (boulè).|
|504||Approximate date of Parmenides' "flourishing" (the time when he was forty) according to Diogenes Lærtius (which doesn't agree with Plato's data)|
|500||Approximate date of Heraclitus'
"flourishing" (the time when he was forty)
Approximate date of birth of Anaxagoras in Clazomenæ, near Smyrna, in Ionia
|498|| Uprising of Greek cities of the Ionian coast, under the leadership of
Aristagoras, ruler of Miletus, and of Cyprus,
led by Onesilus, brother of the king of Salamis
of Cyprus, against the Persian regime of Darius.
Aristagoras had tried in vain to get help from Sparta,
but had found a more favorable ear in Athens,
who sent a small contingent (20 ships). Together, Athenians and Ionians
march on Sardis, the siege of the satrapy,
and set the city afire (Herodotus' Histories,
V, 99-102). But they cannot push their advantage very far and soon have
Darius sets out to curb the rebellion, with the help of the Phoenicians, that provide the bulk of his navy, and soon recaptures Cyprus, but has to wait until 494 for complete victory.
Assassination of Cleandrus, tyrant of Gela, a Sicilian city, who is succeeded by his brother Hippocrates.
Pindar, aged 20, composes his first extant Ode, the Xth Pythian Ode, to celebrate the victory of the Thessalian Hippocleas in the double-stadium race at the Pythian games.
|495||Approximate date of birth of Pericles
Birth of Sophocles at Colonus, a deme of Attica
|494||Naval victory of Darius' fleet over the rebellious Ionian Greeks at Lade, an island off the shores of Miletus, and fall of the city of Miletus at the hands of the Persians, putting an end to the rebellion started in 499 (Herodotus' Histories, VI, 6-21). Having subdued the Ionian Greeks, Darius sets to conquer Greece itself, which will lead to the Persian Wars.|
|493||Themistocles chief magistrate (archôn) of Athens|
|492|| First expedition of the Persians against Greece, under the leadership
of Mardonius. Moving by sea along the coasts of Thracia,
the Persian fleet is destroyed by a tempest while trying to round Mount
Athos, at the tip of one of Chalcidice's peninsulæ. This puts
an end to this first attempt.
Approximate date of Empedocles' birth in the Sicilian town of Acragas.
|491||War between Athens and Ægina (Herodotus, VI, 85-93).|
|490||First Persian war : Darius, having
now subdued the Ionian rebel cities, sends his troops to invade Greece and,
so the story goes, chastise the cities that had helped the Milesians (Eretria
and Athens). Sailing through Naxos
and Delos, the Persian fleet then lands in Euboea
and captures Eretria before moving to Attica.
But the Persian army is stopped at Marathon
by the Athenians alone (and a few Platæans) under the leadership of
Miltiades, who couldn't get help in time
from Sparta and the other Greek cities (Herodotus,
The victory of Marathon gave Athens the feeling that it had saved Greece and deserved to lead it. This argument was still exploited in Plato's time by those who wanted to restore the Athenian Empire after the Peloponesian war. It is possible to read the story of Atlantis told by Critias in the dialogue that bears his name, as a transposition of this Persian war, with the descriptions of the palaces and cities of Atlantis meant to evoke the palaces and cities of the Great King in Persia.
One of the commanding generals at Marathon, along with Miltiades, was Aristides, who will play a leading role in the ensuing years.
Approximate date of death of Pythagoras, who is supposed to have died at about seventy-five or eighty, in Croton, in southern Italy, where he had settled years earlier
Possible approximate date of birth of Zeno at Elea, if one accepts Plato's statement at Parmenides, 127a-c about the respective ages of Parmenides and Zeno at the time of their supposed meeting with Socrates in Athens
|489|| Aristides archon at Athens.
Theron becomes tyrant of Acragas in Sicily and takes control of the city of Himera. Terillus, the deposed tyrant of that city calls for help on the Carthaginians, and this will lead in 480 to the battle of Himera (Herodotus, VII, 165).
|488||First application of the newly introduced law on ostracism on the person of Hipparchus, a relative of Cleisthenes (see Aristotle' Constitution of the Athenians, 22)|
|486||Death of Darius, the Great King of Persia, who is succeeded by his son Xerxes (Herodotus, VII, 2-4).|
|485||Gelon becomes tyrant of Gela, in Sicily
after the death of Hippocrates. He takes control of Syracuse
and leaves Gela to his brother Hieron (Herodotus,
Taking advantage of the trouble following Hippocrates' death, Anaxilas, tyrant of Reggio, at the tip of Italy, takes control of Zancle, on the other side of the straight of Messina, which he had already unsuccessfully tried to control earlier, and install there Messenian settler that will give the city its new name of Messina (Thucydides, VI, 4).
Probable date of birth of Herodotus in Halicarnassus, in the south-west of Asia Minor
First comedy contest in Athens
|484||Xerxes curbs a revolt in Egypt and starts
making arrangements for a new invasion of Greece via the Hellespont and
Thracia, with a joint army and navy, moving
in parallel by land and by sea (Herodotus,
Æschylus' first victory with his tragedies
|483||Themistocles convinces the Athenians to use the profit made by the city from the newly found silver mines of Laurion to build a war fleet, at the time to help in the war against Ægina (that fleet will turn out to play a major role in the building of the Athenian empire) ; he also starts improving the harbor of Piræus (Herodotus, VII, 144 ; Aristotle's Constitution of the Athenians, XXII, 7).|
|482||Ostracism of Aristides, leaving room for Themistocles, his main rival. But Aristides will return to Athens along with all ostracized citizens less than two years later in the face of the peril caused by the Persian invasion (Aristotle's Constitution of the Athenians, XXII, 8).|
|481||Aware of Xerxes plans of invasion, the Greek cities that are willing to fight gather in the Isthmus of Corinth behind Athens and Sparta and decide to set aside their quarrels, especially the war between Athens and Ægina. Plans for the defense of Greece are drawn, locations for resistance (the pass of Thermopylæ on land and Cape Artemisium on sea) are chosen and the command in chief of the allies is attributed to Sparta (Herodotus, VII, 145 ; 172 ; 175-178). Envoys are sent to Argos (Herodotus, VII, 148-152), to Syracuse and Corcyra (Herodotus, VII, 153-168), to Crete (Herodotus, VII, 169-171), to seek assistance. According to Herodotus, Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse, was willing to provide huge assistance (200 ships, about 30.000 troops and cavalrymen, and wheat for the whole Greek army during the whole war) on condition that he be named commander in chief, but the Spartan and Athenian envoys declined the offer on such terms.|
|480||Start of the second Persian war : Xerxes
leads a huge Persian army and fleet (see Herodotus,
VII, 59-100 and 184-187
for a description of this army) across the Hellespont (Herodotus,
VII, 54-58) and through Thracia and doesn't
encounter much resistance at first, but part of the fleet is destroyed by
a tempest along the coasts of Thessaly (Herodotus,
Going along with their plans, the Greek allies meet the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylæ, where the Spartan king Leonidas is defeated by the Persians (Herodotus, VII, 196-239), while the fleets meet at Cape Artemisium, where neither fleet gets the advantage (Herodotus, VIII, 1-22).
As a result, the road is clear for Xerxes to invade Boeotia and Attica while the Peloponnesians retreat, having decided to block the Isthmus of Corinth to save at least Peloponnese (Herodotus, VIII, 71-72). Yet Athens convinces the allies to leave the fleet in the Island of Salamis, a few miles away from Piræus, Athens' harbor (Herodotus, VIII, 40-48). The Persian army invades Attica and takes Athens, most of its inhabitants having fled in the islands of Salamis and Ægina, or across the Saronic Gulf in the Peloponnesian city of Troezen, the birthplace of Theseus. The Persians set fire to the Acropolis (Herodotus, VIII, 50-53).
But, despite the growing danger, Themistocles convinces the allies to keep the Greek fleet in Salamis (Herodotus, VIII, 56-64), and induces by ruse (see Herodotus, VIII, 74-76) the Persian fleet to wage battle on his chosen ground, between the island of Salamis and the mainland, in a place too narrow for it to properly maneuver. As a result, the Persians are defeated and their fleet totally destroyed (Herodotus, VIII, 83-96 ; for a vivid depiction of the battle, see also Æschylus' Persians, 272-510). Aristides, recalled earlier from banishment in view of the danger, takes an active part in the battle (Herodotus, VIII, 79-81 and 95).
As a result of this defeat of his army, Xerxes returns to Asia, leaving behind part of what remains of it under the command of Mardonius (Herodotus, VIII, 97-107). Themistocles is not followed when he wants to send an expedition destroy the bridges over the Hellespont to cut Xerxes' retreat (Herodotus, VIII, 108-110).
At about the same time, Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse , allied with Theron, tyrant of Acragas, defeats the Carthaginians of Amilcar at Himera in Sicily (Herodotus, VII, 165-167).
Approximate date of birth of Euripides in Salamis (some say he was born the very day of the naval victory)
|479||New offensive of the Persian army left behind under the command of Mardonius.
It retakes Athens, once again deserted by its
IX, 1-3). The Athenians decide the Spartan to intervine and an army
placed under the command of Pausanias, son of one of the Kings of Sparta,
is sent against Mardonius. The Persians are defeated by an army composed
of contingents from most of Greece, including 8.000 Athenians under the
command of Aristides (Herodotus,
IX, 28), at the battle of Platæa
in Boeotia, which lasts 13 days and where Mardonius is killed (Herodotus,
Meanwhile, at about the same time, the Greek fleet sent in Ionia defeats what remains of the Persian fleet at Cape Mycale (Herodotus, IX, 90-107). These victories don't put a complete end to the second Persian War, which will keep going for several more years, until the Peace of Callias, in 449, but it marks the end of Persian incursions on Greek mainland.
Following the victory at Cape Mycale, the Greek fleet moves north toward the Hellespont and Xerxes' bridges. Once in Abydos, seeing that the bridges are destroyed, the Peloponesians decide to return home while the Athenians set the siege of Sestos, a controlling stronghold in Chersonese across the Hellespont from Abydos, occupied by Persians. After a siege that lasts several months through the winter, the place is captured and the Athenians return home (Herodotus, IX, 114-121 and Thucydides, I, 89).
Meanwhile, in Athens, Themistocles, now working hand in hand with Aristides, manages to quickly have Athens' and Piræus' walls and fortifications, destroyed by the Persians, rebuilt despite opposition from Sparta (Thucydides, I, 89-93 and Aristotle's Constitution of the Athenians, XXIII, 3-4).
|478||A Greek fleet under the command of the Spartan general Pausanias, the
winner of Platæa, takes Cyprus,
then Byzantium. Soon after, while Pausanias, accused of behaving more and
more like a tyrant (see Thucydides,
I, 130), is summoned to Sparta (where,
this time around, he will be cleared of accusations of collusion with the
Persians that were probably not unfounded and will resurface in 470,
leading to his condemnation to death by the Spartan ephors), Athens,
at the request of the allies, presides over the formation of the Delian
League, so named because it had its seat in Delos,
a famous sanctuary of Apollo, where the treasure of the League was initially
Under the impulsion of Aristides, reelected commander in chief (stratègos) owing to his role in the victory at Platæa , the League soon assembles a fleet, put under the command of Cimon, son of Miltiades, the winner of Marathon.
Death of Gelon, tyrant of Syracuse, who by now controls all of eastern Sicily. He is succeeded by his brother Hieron. Hieron will make Syracuse a brilliant city and attract to his court such famous poets as Pindar, Æschylus and Simonides.
|476||Aristides sets the initial amount of the
tribute owed by each allied city to the treasury of the League
kept in Delos (Aristotle's Constitution
of the Athenians, XXIII, 5).
Continuing its policy of retaking the cities of Thrace and the Hellespont occupied by the Persians, started a few years earlier by the siege of Sestos (479), Athenians, under the leadership of Cimon, besiege Eion, along the banks of the Strymon river, thus setting in motion the process that will transform over time the Delian League into an Athenian empire (Thucydides, I, 98).
Pindar writes his first three Olympic odes
|475||Fall of the city of Eion and its Persian garrison besieged since the previous year by the Athenians led by Cimon. Though the city is burned to the ground by the Persian governor before killing his family and himself, Athenian settler find there a fertile area to occupy (Herodotus, VII, 107 and Plutarch's Life of Cimon, VII, 1-VIII, 2).|
|474||Hieron, tyrant of Syracuse, defeats the Etruscans at the battle of Cumæ, a Greek settlement in the Naples area.|
|473||Cimon and his troops take the island of Skyros, a pirates' base in the middle of the Ægean Sea, thus making navigation in the &AEgean safe (Thucydides, I, 98 and Plutarch's Life of Cimon, VIII, 3-6). It is during this expedition that Cimon recovers Theseus' bones (he had died in this island several hundreds years earlier) and brings them back to Athens for proper burial.|
|472||First performance of Æschylus' Persians|
|471||Ostracism of Themistocles, leaving room to his main rival, Cimon|
|470||Pausanias, the Spartan general of royal ascent, who had been deprived of his command in 478 following complaints by the Greek allies over his tyrannical behavior and accusations of collusion with the Persians, but had nonetheless returned on his own to Byzantium and, when driven out of there by Cimon, had settled in Troas, in northern Asia Minor, maintaining relations with Xerxes, is once again summoned to Sparta and eventually convicted of treason and put to death by the ephors (Thucydides, I, 131-134).|
|Birth of Socrates|
|469||Athens crushes the revolt of the island of
Naxos, which then becomes the first vassal state of Athens
Themistocles, still under a sentence of ostracism and living in Argos, is accused by Sparta of treason and collaboration with the Persians, following the conviction the previous year of Pausanias on similar charges. He escapes the squad sent to arrest him and, after wandering in several places, crosses over to Ionia and finally seeks refuge at the court of Persia at about the time when Artaxerxes succeeds his father. In time, Artaxerxes will name him governor of Magnesia, an Ionian city southeast of Ephesus (Thucydides, I,135-138).
|468||Probable date of the death of Aristides
Death of the lyric and elegiac poet Simonides, from the island of Ceos, where he was born around 548.
|467||Death of Hieron, tyrant of Syracuse. He
is succeeded by his brother Thrasybullus, who is soon overthrown and replaced
by a democratic regime.
First performance of Æschylus' Theban tetralogy (including Seven against Thebes), which wins first prize.
|466||Naval victory of the Athenian fleet led by Cimon
over the Persian fleet near the mouth of the Eurymedon
river in Pamphilia (Thucydides,
First victory of Sophocles with his tragedies
|465||Assassination of Xerxes, the Great King
of Persia, on order from his son Artaxerxes,
who succeeds him.
The island of Thasos in northern Ægean tries to leave the Delian League. Athens sends a fleet, which invades the island and set the siege of the city of Thasos. The siege will last more than two years (Thucydides, I,100).
At about the same time, 10 000 Athenian settlers sent in Thrace near the mouth of the Strymon river (the site of the future Amphipolis) are massacered by Thracians at Drabescus (Thucydides, I, 100 ; IV, 102). Later, Cimon, in relation with this affair, will be accused of having been bribed by Alexander, the king of Macedon, not to intervene, Alexander being not too pleased to see Greek settlers take foot in that area close to his kingdom, while the Athenians saw an opportunty at the time to invade Macedon (Plutarch's Life of Cimon, 14).
|464||Earthquake in Laconia, the Greek province
where Sparta is located, leading to a revolt
of the Helots, the Spartan serfs, who take refuge at Mount Ithome, a mountain
in Messenia. This uprising prevents Sparta
from answering a call from Thasos, besieged
by the Athenians, to come to their rescue (Thucydides,
Approximate date of Zeno's "flourishing" (the time when he was forty) according to Apollodorus (who usually makes the disciple forty years younger than his master, here Parmenides this doesn't quite agree with Plato's data)
|463||Cimon overcomes the revolt of Thasos,
whose siege had started two years ago. (Thucydides,
Start of Pericles' political career, who unsuccessfully challenges Cimon on his accounting of public money (Aristotle's Constitution of the Athenians, XXVII, 1) and/or his behavior two years earlier in Thracia (Plutarch's Life of Cimon, 14 ; Life of Pericles, 10, 5).
|462||Cimon, who favors an alliance with Sparta,
answers her call to help against the rebelious Helots and leads a detachment
of hoplites that gets stuck at Mount Ithome, where the Helots had entrenched
themselves, before being sent back by Sparta,
accusing the Ahenian hoplites of complicity with the Helots.
While Cimon is away, Ephialtes manages to get refoms through, that deprive the Council of the Areopagus of most of its power. This is also the time judges start getting paid for th job.
Approximate date of Anaxagoras' arrival in Athens, where he befriended Pericles
|461||Ostracism of Cimon at the instigation of Pericles|
|460||Assassination of Ephialtes
Approximate date of birth of Hippocrates, the famous physician, in the Island of Cos.
Approximate date of birth of Democritus in Abdera in Thracia.
Approximate date of birth of Thucydides, the future historian of the Peloponesian war, in Athens, in the family of Miltiades.
Socrates is 10
|459||Beginning of the building of the Long Walls between
Athens and Piræus, at the instigation of Pericles.
Capitulation of the rebelious Helots of Messenia in their fight against Sparta. As a result, the Messenians leave definitely Peloponnese. Athens installs them in the city of Naupactus on the gulf of Corinth, providing itself with an ally on the western shore and a base for ships sailing toward Italy and Sicily (Thucydides, I,103).
Athens concludes alliances with Argos and Megara, enemies of Sparta (Thucydides, I,103).
War between Athens and Corinth, allied with Ægina, over the increasing presence of Athens in Corinth's traditional sphere of influence. Though Corinth is a member of the Peloponnesian Alliance, Sparta does not intervene (Thucydides, I,105).
Athens answers a call from Egypt to help in an uprising against the Persians by sending a fleet there. The fleet of the League, that was a the time campaigning against Cyprus, is sent to Egypt and is at first successful, but the expedition will end in deafeat in 454 (Thucydides, I,104).
Death of Themistocles in Magnesia, a city of Ionia, southeast of Ephesus of which he had been named governor by Artaxerxes. Some say he commited suicide to avoid making good on his promise to Artaxerxes to help him in Greek affairs when he was required to do so when Athens answered a call for help from rebellious Egypt (see Thucydides, I,138 and Plutarch's Life of Themistocles, 31,3).
|458||Athens starts the siege of the nearby island
of Ægina, allied with Corinth.
First performance of Æschylus' Orestia (including Agamemnon, Libation Bearers and Eumenides)
|457||On its way back from an expedition to help the people of Doris,
a province northwest of Boeotia that was their former home, against the
Phocians, the Spartans, with the help of the Thebans, defeat an Athenian
army at Tanagra, near Thebes.
Later that year, the Athenians take revenge over the Boeotians at Oenophyta, after the Peloponesians have left, thus taking control of Boeotia, Phocis and the sanctuary of Delphi (Thucydides, I,108).
The construction of the Long Walls is completed : one wall goes from Athens to Piræus, another from Athens to Phaleron.
Death of Æschylus in Gela, a city of Sicily
|456||Capitulation of Ægina, an island facing
Athens, besieged since 459, who is thus forced
to enter the Athenian alliance (Thucydides,
The expedition sent in Egypt a few years earlier to help an uprising angainst Persia there is defeated by the Persian army and the Athenians are besieged in an island of the Nile delta. The siege will last 18 month and end by a defeat of the Athenian army. (Thucydides, I,109-110).
|455||Euripides' first tragedies|
|454||Before the arrival of a rescue fleet of 50 ships, the Athenian army besieged in an island of the Nile delta is finally crushed by the Persians, and so is the rescue party (Thucydides, I, 110).|
|453||Pericles leads an expedition in northern
Peloponnese against Sicyon
and makes alliance with the Achæans (Thucydides,
The treasure of the Delian League is moved from Delos to Athens, supposedly to keep it safer, owing to the Athenian disaster in Egypt.
|451||A five year truce between Sparta and Athens is negociated by Cimon, back from exile.|
|450||Cimon takes the lead of an expedition against
Cyprus in the ongoing war with Persia. He is
killed in this expedition, during the siege of Citium,
a city on the southern coast of Cyprus. On its way back, the fleet wins
a great victory against the Persian fleet at Salamis
of Cyprus, that open the way to the peace of Callias the following year
Approximate date of birth of Alcibiades.
Around this time, Alexander I Philhellen is succeeded on the throne of Macedon by his son Perdiccas II.
Socrates is 20
|449||Peace of Callias, between Athens and Persia,
putting an end to the Persian Wars.
The decision is made, at the instigation of Pericles, to rebuild the temples of the Acropolis of Athens, destroyed by the Persians of Xerxes in 480. It will take several years and require a lot of money : Athens will use for that purpose money from the treasury of the Delian League. Pericles himself will take an active part in supervising the work, but only the Parthenon and the Propylæa will be completed by his death in 429.
|448||"Sacred war" about Delphi : the Lacedemonian return Delphi to the Delphians, but as soon as they have left, Athens takes it back and returns it to the Phocians (Thucydides, I, 112).|
|447||Expedition of Athens in Boeotia, in support
of democratic regimes against partisans of oligarchy. The Athenians take
Chæronea before being defeated by the
Boeotians at Coronæa. Athens
thus loses control of Boeotia (Thucydides,
Clinias, Alcibiades' father is killed at the battle of Coronæa. Alcibiades is about four and Pericles, whose mother was the sister of his maternal grandfather Megacles, becomes his guardian.
Beginning of the construction of the Parthenon at Athens under the supervision of the sculptor Phidias and the architects Callicrates and Ictinus. It will not be completed until 438.
|446||Uprising of the island of Euboea, crushed by Athens, now free of the war against Persia, under the leadership of Pericles. A similar uprising at Megara cannot be overcome and Megara is lost to Athens. Sparta invades Attica in support of Megara, but stops at Eleusis without pushing its advantage (Thucydides, I, 114).|
|445||Completion of the Long Walls, whose construction
was started in 459 (a second wall has been added between Athens
Signing of the "Thirty Year Peace" between Athens and Sparta. Athens loses most of its conquests and alliances in Peloponnese (Thucydides, I, 115).
Approximate date of birth of Aristophanes
|444||Foundation of the panhellenic colony of Thurii near the site of the destroyed city of Sybaris, in southern Italy, at the initiative of Athens ; colonists come from all of Greece and include such individuals as the historian Herodotus and the architect Hippodamus of Miletus (who had been in charge of drawing the map of Piræus, Athens' harbor) ; Protagoras is asked by Pericles to draw the laws of the new colony.|
|443||Ostracism of Thucydides of Alopekè (the politician, not the historian), Pericles' main rival in Athens, and leader of the anti-imperialistic oligarchic party, who reproaches Pericles his way of spending the city's money ; Pericles then becomes commander in chief (stratègos) and stays in that function till 429, year of his death|
|442||The first Sophists come to Athens. Pericles befriends Protagoras. Rhetoric starts being in vogue with, among others, Antiphon of Rhamnus (mentioned at Menexenus, 236a, and praised by Thucydides at Histories, VIII, 68).|
|441||Uprising against Athens of the Island of
himself leads the siege of Samos which lasts
nine months before the city is taken and forced to reenter the League
(one of the generals in charge along with Pericles during the campaign against
Samos was Sophocles)
First performance of Sophocles Antigone.
Euripides wins first prize for the first time with one of his tragedies.
|440||Approximate date of the birth of Lysias
Socrates is 30
|438||Achievment of the Parthenon, host of Phidias' statue of Athena
Approximate date of the death of Pindar at age eighty
First performance of Euripides 'Alcestis. Euripides wins second prize behind Sophocles.
|436|| New attempt by the Athenians to settle near the mouth of the Strymon
river in Thracia, by founding the city of
Amphipolis using neighboring Eion
as a starting base (Thucydides,
IV, 102). The area, rich in gold and silver, and source of wood for
ship-building, is also coveted by the king of Macedon,
Perdiccas II, and this settlement
will cool down relations between Athens
and the king.
Approximate date of the birth of Isocrates .
|435||A democratic government that has taken power in Epidamnus, a colony of Corcyra, unable to find support from their mother city against the exiled aristocrats allied to the Illyrians of the neighborhood, seeks help from Corinth, Corcyra's mother city. Corinth, afraid that her colony of Corcyra, now rich and endowed with a powerful fleet, is breaking loose and runs against her interests, sends support to Epidamnus, but can't prevent the Corcyreans to take Epidamnus afer winning a land and sea battle around the city ( Thucydides, I,24-30). There ensues for the next two years, intense naval preparations diplomatic activity on the part of Corinth and Corcyra, the later eventually succeeding in dragging Athens on its side, leading to a second military campaign that will be one more step toward the Peloponesian war (Thucydides, I,31-44).|
|433||Having now signed a treaty with Corcyra, in conflict with Corinth, her mother city, after the episode of Epidamnus two years earlier, Athens sends a small fleet, under the command of Lacedæmonius, the son of Cimon, and two other generals, to fight alonside the Corcyrean fleet against Corinth. The naval battle takes place in front of the Sybota Islands, near Corcyra. At first, the Corinthians defeat the Corcyrean fleet, but then, a second larger Athenian fleet come to the rescue shows up and the Athenians accept to let the Corinthians go without fight so long as they don't invade Corcyra. Thus, both sides can claim to have won the battle (Thucydides, I,45-55).|
|432||The Athenians, involved in power struggles in Macedon,
where they have taken side for a rival of king Perdiccas,
and in bad terms with Corinth, owing to the
affair of Corcyra, worry about the possible
defection of Potidæa, a colony of Corinth
in the peninsula of Chalcidice that had become
a member of the Delian League, and is being pushed to rebellion by Perdiccas.
They send troops there that first fight the Macedonians and manage to sign
a truce with Perdiccas before turning
against Potidæa, which has in the meantime
signed an alliance with Sparta. A battle takes
place in front of the city and a siege ensues, that will last till 429
According to Symposium, 219e-220e, Socrates (aged about 38) took part in this campaign and saved Alcibiades' life during the battle. The Lysis is supposed to take place shortly after this battle (see Lysis, 153a)
Approximate date of Empedocles' death at age about sixty. A legend has it that he jumped into the crater of the Etna
|431||Start of the Peloponesian War
Sparta invades Attica but only raids the countryside, Athens being protected by its walls.
First performance of Euripides 'Medea.
|430||Funeral oration by Pericles on the dead
II, 34-46). Plato alludes to this funeral oration
at the beginning of the Menexenus, which is supposed to offer a new
funeral oration composed by Aspasia with "scraps" of Pericles'
speech, of which she was supposed to be also the author (Menexenus,
Later on, after a second invasion of Attica, Pericles, thought responsible for the war, is not reelected commander in chief and is sued and condemned to a huge fine.
Start of the Plague in Athens (it will last till 426) (see Thucydides, II,47-54).
Possible date of publication of the Elements of the mathematician Hippocrates of Chios, predating those of Euclides by more than one century.
Socrates is 40
|429||Pericles is reinstated and elected once
again commander in chief, but dies soon after from the plague
Capitulation of Potidæa
|428||Start of the siege of Platæa, south
west of Thebes, ally of Athens,
by the Peloponesians and Thebans. The siege will last two years and the
city will be eventually destroyed, its inhabitants fleeing to Athens.
Probable death of Anaxagoras at seventy-two, in exile at Lampsacus, in northern Ionia (according to Hippolytus, he died the year of Plato's birth)
Euripides wins first prize with the second version of his tragedy Hippolytus, the story of the sinful love of Phædra, Theseus' wife, for her son-in-law.
|Birth of Plato from Ariston and Perictionè (Socrates is 42)|
|427||Siege of Mytilene by the Athenians. Capitualtion
of the city. Cleon, new spokesman for the democrats
after Pericles' death, tries to convince
the Athenians to kill all able men from Mytilene,
but is overruled. Only the prisonners are killed and the walls of the city
are destroyed (see Thucydides,
Yet, Cleon, the son of a wealthy tanner, a rogue demagogue, often mocked by Aristophanes in his plays, will become, for the years to come, the most influencial leader of Athens.
End of the siege of Platæa and destruction of the city at the request of Thebes (see Thucydides, III,52-68)
Civil war in Corcyra between oligarchs supported by Sparta and democrats supported by Athens. Athens sends a fleet in Sicily which installs, on its way, a garrison at Pylos in southern Peloponnese, not far from Sparta, headed by the strategos Demosthenes.
Approximate date of birth of Xenophon of Athens in the deme Erchia.
|425||While Attica is once again invaded, the garrison
at Pylos surrounds Spartan hoplites, sent to
try and drive it out, in the nearby island of Sphacteria.
Cleon refuses to negociate with Sparta
and promises to take Sphacteria in less that
twenty days. Forced by Nicias to make good
on his promise, he is made commander in chief and leaves for Pylos.
Following the advice of Demosthenes, he manages to take Sphacteria
as promised. (Thucydides,
IV,26-41). As a result, Sparta renounces
to invade Attica in the future.
Cleon raises the tribute of the allies and brings the salary of the judges from two to three obols
First performance of Aristophanes' Acharnians, his third comedy, but the first still extant.
|424||Conference of Gela between the waring cities
of Sicily. The Syracusan general Hermocrates
pleads for a general peace in Sicily and wins.
As a result, the Athenian fleet in Sicily goes
back home. (Thucydides,
IV,58-65) (This Hermocrates is one of Socrates'
interlocutors in the Timæus and Critias).
Battle of Delium, a city in eastern Boeocia, where Athens is defeated by the Thebans in a failed attempt, led by two Athenian generals, Hippocrates and Demosthenes, to promote and support uprisings of Boeotian cities with the help of local democrats intent on shaking the dominion of Thebes. Hippocrates and more than a thousand Athenian hoplites are killed in the affair (Thucydides, IV, 76-101).
According to Symposium, 220e-221c, Socrates (aged about 46) took part in this battle along with Alcibiades and Laches (see also Laches, 181b and Apology, 28e).
Thucydides, the historian, is commander in chief of an Athenian army in Thracia, but cannot prevent the Spartan general Brasidas from taking the city of Amphipolis, an Athenian colony founded near the mouth of the Strymon river in 436 (see Thucydides, IV,102-106). As a result, Thucydides is banished by Cleon (Thucydides, V,26).
Death of Artaxerxes. Palace intrigues lead to the successive assassination of two of his sons, Xerxes II and Sogdianos, who succeed one another on the throne the first for 45 days, the second for 6 months, until eventually a third of his sons takes hold under the name of Darius II.
First performance of Aristophanes' Knights, a comedy in which he makes fun of Cleon (appearing in the play under the name "the Paphlagonian"), the recent winner at Sphacteria, whose popularity is at its peak, and also stages two Athenians generals of the time, Demosthenes, the real winner of Sphacteria, and Nicias.
|423||One year truce in the war. Cleon is named
commander in chief of an expedition in Chalcidice.
Darius II becomes king of Persia after palace struggles with his elder brothers.
First performance of Aristophanes' Clouds, a play in which he makes fun of Socrates.
|422||Cleon dies in a battle in front of Amphipolis,
along with the Spartan general Brasidas.
First performance of Aristophanes' Wasps, a play in which once again he attacks Cleon, and more specifically the consequences of his decision, taken three years ago, to raise the salary of judges.
|421||Following the battle of Amphipolis, negociations
between the Athenian general Nicias and Pleistoanax,
the Spartan king, lead to a treaty known as the Peace of Nicias, supposed
to put an end to a war that had already lasted ten years. Under its terms,
a truce of fifty years is decided, prisonners and captured cities should
be returned, and future quarrels should be settled by negociation rather
than arms. Yet, several cities, including Corinth,
the cities of Boeotia, Megara
and Elis, refuse to sign the treaty. A separate
treaty of mutual assistance between Athens
and Sparta alone includes provisions for the
former to help the later in case of a revolt of Helots (Thucydides'
But from the start, things go wrong : Sparta doesn't return Amphipolis and Athens refuses to evacuate Pylos. Besides, some of the frustrated allies of Sparta will soon seek alliances with Athens. If Athens and Sparta will be spared war on their own territory for six years to come, the war will never really stop in the rest of Peloponnese (Thucydides, V, 25-26).
Indeed, hardly have they left the peace conference in Sparta that the Corinthians turn toward Argos, which, as hereditary rival of Sparta for hegemony in Peloponnese, had mostly stayed out of the war so far, to induce it to take the lead of the Peloponnesian cities worried by Sparta's imperialistic stance (Thucydides, V, 27-28). Mantinea first, followed by Elis, Corinth and the cities of Chalcidice, conclude alliances with Argos (Thucydides, V, 29-31).
First performance of Aristophanes' Peace, written while the Peace of Nicias was been negociated and played a few days before the signature.
|420||Alcibiades is named strategos for
the first time.
Socrates is 50
|418||Athens concludes an alliance with the Peloponnesian
cities of Argos, Mantinea
and Elis but they are defeated by the Spartans
at the battle of Mantinea.
Plato is 10
Alcibiades enters no less than seven teams of horses in the chariot race at the Olympic games and wins first, second and either third (according to Isocrates, On the team of horses, 34 and Euripides quoted by Plutarch in his Life of Alcibiades, 11) or fourth (acccording to Thucydides, Histories, VI, 16, 2) place.
|415|| Against the opinion of Nicias, Alcibiades
convinces the Athenians to undertake an expedition against Sicily
First performance of Euripides 'Trojan Women.
First performance of Aristophanes' Birds.
|413||Archelaus becomes king of Macedon at the death of his father Perdiccas II by having the legitimate successor assassinated.|
|412||Alcibiades must leave Sparta,
accused of having had an affair with the wife of king Agis and of being
the father of her son. He goes to Lydia and
befriends the satrap Tissaphernes.
An attempt by the Athenian generals leading the fleet in Samos to negociate Alcibiades' return to Athens and alliance with Tissaphernes fails and leads to an oligarchic coup and a change of constitution. The new regime, known as the regime of the Four-Hundred won't last long won't last long and, under the leadership of Theramenes, by the summer of 410, the former democratic regime is reinstated.
First performance of Euripides 'Helen.
|411||Defeat of the Athenians at Eretria.|
|410||End of the oligarchic regime of the Four-Hundred in Athens
and restoration of the democratic regime.
Socrates is 60
First performance of Euripides 'Orestes.
Plato is 20
|407|| Cyrus, younger son of Darius II, king
of Persia, is named Satrap of Asia Minor in replacement of Tissaphernes,
who had been convinced by Alcibiadesto switch
alliances and support Athens. Cyrus is instructed
to support Sparta and helps finance Lysander's
fleet, eventually contributing to the victory of Sparta.
Alcibiades returns to Athens.
Death of Euripides at Pella in Macedon, where he had been living in exile the last years of his life at the court of Archelaus, king od Macedon.
|406||Death of Sophocles in Athens
First (posthumous) performance of Euripides' Iphigeneia in Aulis and Bacchæ, staged by the poet's son, which won first prize.
|405||First performance of Aristophanes' Frogs|
|404|| Death of Darius II, king of Persia. He
is succeeded by his son Artaxerxes II.
The Spartan general Lysander imposes peace upon Athens and institutes the rule of the Thirty Tyrants, putting an end to the Peloponesian War that had started 27 years earlier
Critias, a relative of Plato (by now about 24) by his mother, is one of the leaders of the Thirty Tyrants, and Charmides, another of his mother's relatives, is among the Thirty (see Letter VII, 324c-d).
Sometime that year, Socrates (now aged about 66) refuses to obey the Thirty and to arrest Leon of Salamis (see Apology, 32c-d and Letter VII, 324d-325a)
Death of Alcibiades at about 46.
|403||Death of Critias the Tyrant during a fight in Piræus against
the democrats led by Thrasybulus
The Thirty Tyrants are overthrown and democracy is reestablished in Athens
|401|| Failed attempt by Cyrus to overthrow
his elder brother Artaxerxes with the help
of an army including Ten Thousand Greek hoplites under the command of Greek
generals including Xenophon and Meno
of Thessalia (the Meno of Plato's dialogue by
that name). Cyrus, with their help,
wins the battle of Cunaxa, but is killed while trying to kill his brother
during the battle. The trip back home of the Ten Thousands through Armenia
and the Black Sea, which is told by Xenophon
in the Anabasis,
contributed to the discredit of the Persian Empire in the eyes of the Greeks.
First (posthumous) performance of Sophocles' last tragedy, Oedipus at Colonus, staged by the poet's grandson, Sophocles the Younger.
Approximate date of birth of Eudoxus, the future mathematician and member of Plato's Academy, in Cnidus.
Socrates is 70
|399||Assassination of Archelaus, king of Macedon,
opening a troubled period for that kingdom.
Trial of Andocides, accused by Callias and friends of impiety in relation with the Eleusinian mysteries and his earlier involvment in the affairs of the Mysteries and Hermæ back in 415. The accusation was brought forth in a speech written by Lysias, Against Andocides, and Andocides' defense is known to us from his own speech, On the Mysteries. In the end, Andocides won his case.
|Trial and death of Socrates (he is about 70 ; Plato is about 29)|
Plato is 30
|395||Start of the Corinthian war, that will last till 387. It opposes Sparta
on one side to Athens allied with Thebes,
Corinth and Argos.
The Spartan general Lysander is killed at the start of the war in a clash with the Thebans at Haliartus (Plutarch's Life of Lysander, 27-28 ; Xenophon's Hellenica, III, 5, 17-20)
Olympic Oration of Gorgias preaching Greek unity against the Barbarians whose land they should conquer.
Olympic Oration of Lysias preaching Greek unity against Dionysus of Syracuse (only a fragment is extant).
Plato is 40
|387||End of the Corinthian war (started in 395) by the Peace of the King, which gives all cities their autonomy and dissolves all confederacies.
Plato's funeral oration put in Socrates' mouth in the Menexenus is supposed to eulogize the deads of this war, even though Socrates was by then long dead.
Gorgias wrote a funeral oration, now lost, for that occasion, and the Funeral Oration ascribed to Lysias (extant), whether written by him or by someone else, was also written on that occasion.
|385||Birth of Aristotle in Stagira, in Chalcidice. His father is a physician at the court of the kings of Macedon.|
|384||Birth of Demosthenes|
|380||Approximate date of death of Aristophanes
Publication of Isocrates' Panegyricus, in which he presents a pan-hellenic program preaching union between the Greeks against the Barbarians under the leadership of Athens.
Plato is 50
|377||Approximate date of the death of Hippocrates of Cos, the famous physician.|
|371||Thebes, under the leadership of Epaminondas, defeats Sparta at the battle of Leuctra.|
Plato is 60
|367||Arrival of Aristotle (who is by now about 18) as a student at Plato's Academy, where he will stay until Plato's death in 347|
|362||The Theban army is defeated, and Epaminondas, their general, killed, by the joined armies of Athens and Sparta at the battle of Mantinea.|
|359||Philip becomes king of Macedon
at the death of his brother Perdiccas III, by eliminating his young nephew
while assuming the regency.
Death of Artaxerxes II, king of Persia at more than 90. After more palace struggle and assassinations, one of his sons, succeeds him under the name Artaxerxes III.
Plato is 70
|357||Philip, king of Macedon, takes Amphipolis and Potidæa, and the Thracian coast without being challenged by Athens.|
|356||Birth of Alexander, son of Philip, king of Macedon.|
Approximate date of the death of Eudoxus, the great mathematician and member of Plato's Academy.
|351||Start of Demosthenes political career with the 1st Philippic.|
|349||Philip of Macedon attacks Olynthus in Chalcidice, who calls upon Athens for help. Demosthenes pleads unsuccessfully in favor of help in the three Olynthiac speeches (1st Olynthiac, 2nd Olynthias, 3rd Olynthiac). Philip takes over Olynthus and the whole of Chalcidice.|
Plato is 80
|347||Death of Plato (he is about 80). His nephew Speusippus becomes head of the Academy in his place. Aristotle is by now about 38 and will soon leave the Academy, maybe because he was prefered Speusippus to head it.|
|346||Peace of Philocrates between Athens and Philip
of Macedon. Philip becomes a member of the Amphictyonic Council of Delphi
and is thus suppose to watch over the peace. Demosthenes
agrees halfheartedly to the peace with Philip (his speech On
the Peace was delivered on that occasion).
For Isocrates, as can be seen in the speech To Philip he published that year, Philip is the one who could bring peace to the whole of Greece and lead it to the conquest of the Persian Empire (which is what his son Alexander will do 10 years later).
|343||Trial of Philocrates, accused of illegality in the embassy he lead to the court of Philip of Macedon following the affair of Olynthus. He is defendend by Demosthenes against Æschines, one of the leaders of the Macedonian party in Athens, who were both part of the embassy (the speech of Demosthenes, On the False Embassy, and that of Æschines, On the Embassy, are both extant, and the story is retold in later speeches pronounced in 330, Demosthenes' On the Crown and Æschines' Against Ctesiphon).|
|339||Philip of Macedon restarts the sacred war
and becomes head of the Amphictyonic Army. In Athens,
Demosthenes delivers his great speeches
and tries to rally the Greeks against Philip. Thebes
breaks its alliance with Macedon.
Death of Speusippus. Xenocrates succeeds him as head of the Academy
Isocrates publishes his last speech, the Panathenaicus, started in 342, when, as he says himself at the beginning of the speech, he was 94.
|338||The Thebans, now allied with the Athenians as a result of Demosthenes'
diplomatic efforts, are defeated by Philip of
Macedon at Chæronea.
Death of Artaxerxes III, king of Persia, by poisoning at the hand of the eunuch Bagoas. He is succeeded by his son Oarses who will meet the same fate within two years.
|337||Peace of Demades (after the name of the Athenian orator who initiated the negociations) between Philip of Macedon on the one hand, Athens and its allies on the other. Philip is harsh against Thebes and Athens' other allies, but soft on Athens, who is allowed to keep its fleet and most of its colonies, except Chersonese. Yet Athens must join the Corinthian League, sponsored by Philip who becomes thus the hègemôn of all Greece, that is, both its military and political leader.|
|336|| Assassination of Philip of Macedon, probably
at the instigation of his former wife, the mother of Alexander. His son
Alexander the Great becomes king of Macedon.
Death of Oarses, king of Persia, by poisoning at the hand of the eunuch Bagoas, like his father. He is succeeded by his cousin, a great-grandson of Darius II, who becomes king under the name Darius III.
|335||Campaign of Alexander in Thracia. Upon hearing rumors that he has been killed, Thebes tries to rebel against the Macedonians. But, less than two weeks after getting the news, Alexander is back at Thebes to quench the rebellion. Several thousands Thebans are killed, tens of thousands, including women and children, made prisonners and the city is razed, except for its temples and Pindar's house.|
|334||Aristotle returns to Athens and starts teaching in the Lyceum|
|331||Alexander enters Susa, the administrative capital of the Persian Empire, then Persepolis and Pasargades, the holy cities of Persia and takes hold of the treasury of the empire.|
|330||Death of Darius III, assassinated by his Satraps. This marks the end of the Persian dynasty and Empire, by now at the hands of Alexander.|
|323||Death of Alexander the Great during an expedition in Asia|
|322||Death of Aristotle in Chalcis,
in the island of Euboea, where he had fled in exile "to spare Athens
another trial of a philosopher"
Suicide of Demosthenes after the defeat of the Greek against the Macedonians at Crannon, so he will not be taken alive by his ennemies